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AHL Weekly: Stars shining brightly

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. … The Dallas Stars were the only National Hockey League team without a primary development affiliate during the 2008-09 season, instead spreading their prospects among several AHL clubs. Dallas’s AHL’ers are reunited in Austin this season, and the first-year Texas Stars are out to an impressive start in the Lone Star State.

In his first season as an AHL head coach, Glen Gulutzan has his Stars atop the West Division with a record of 10-2-0-2 and 22 points through 14 games. Texas enters the week riding a five-game winning streak and has picked up points in seven straight outings (6-0-0-1). The Stars also sport an impressive 7-1-0-1 mark at their new home, the Cedar Park Center. Excluding shootouts and empty-net tallies, Texas goaltenders have allowed only 19 goals in the team’s first 14 contests, including more than two tallies in a game on only three occasions.

In his first full AHL season, Matt Climie leads the league in goals-against average (1.12) and save percentage (.961) while putting up a 4-1-2 record with two shutouts in seven appearances. Counterpart Brent Krahn, a former first-round draft pick, ranks third both categories (1.58, .951) and shows a 6-1-0 mark in seven outings.

Texas features a defensive corps rife with experience, including two-time Stanley Cup champion Brad Lukowich, who has put up seven points (1-6-7) in 12 contests. Garrett Stafford has four points (2-2-4) and a plus-6 rating, and former Calder Cup champion Dan Jancevski shows a plus-8 rating to go along with four assists. The Stars’ blue line has also been bolstered by the presences of 2006 first-round draft pick Ivan Vishnevskiy, 2008 Eddie Shore Award winner Andrew Hutchinson, and 2009 Calder Cup finalist Maxime Fortunus.

Younger legs have carried the offense to this point, and Texas has found success despite being one of three AHL clubs yet to feature a double-digit point-getter; 22-year-old Perttu Lindgren (5-4-9) and 20-year-old rookie Colton Sceviour (1-8-9) each has a team-high nine points in 14 games. Lindgren made his NHL debut with Dallas earlier this season (as did Texas forwards Aaron Gagnon and Francis Wathier), and Sceviour currently leads the league with a plus-11 rating.

Twenty-year-old rookie Sergei Korostin (6-1-7) and 2009 Calder Cup finalist Greg Rallo (6-2-8) have each put up six goals for the Stars, and rookie Scott McCulloch has chipped in four points in just five games. Even more depth comes from captain Landon Wilson, who has spent much of the first five weeks of the season on the injured list, and second-year pro Raymond Sawada, who returned from injury to make his season debut last weekend.

The week ahead is a busy one for the Stars, as they leave the confines of their home state for the first time all season. Texas visits Peoria on Wednesday and Rockford on Friday before returning home to take on Chicago on Saturday night. The four-games-in-five-days stretch ends with a visit to San Antonio on Sunday afternoon.

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HAIL TO THE CHIEF … Former U.S. President George H.W. Bush and his wife, former First Lady Barbara Bush, were among the 8,433 in attendance for Military Appreciation Night at the Toyota Center in Houston on Saturday. The Aeros hosted active duty personnel, the families of military serving in war zones, families who have lost loved ones in the service and dozens of newly enlisted troops at the game.

“Military Appreciation Night is a special night for everyone involved,” said Aeros executive vice president of business operations Jamie Spencer. “The troops and their families make tremendous sacrifices for our country and this is a way for us to express our appreciation to them.”

PACKING UP THE WINS … Hartford has turned around its fortunes of late, winning four straight games since suffering a 6-0 home-ice loss to Hershey on Oct. 30. The Wolf Pack enter the new week a season-best two games over .500 at 8-6-0-0 (16 points) following road victories last weekend in Providence and Bridgeport.

Hartford boasts the AHL’s top two scorers in newcomer Corey Locke (9-12-21) and returnee P.A. Parenteau (9-10-19), both of whom are tied for the league lead in goals with Springfield’s Chris Minard. Second-year pro Bobby Sanguinetti ranks second among AHL defensemen with 17 points (5-12-17) for the Pack, and 19-year-old rookie Evgeny Grachev shows 12 points (5-7-12) through the first 14 games of his professional career.

ROAD TRIP SUCCESS … Last week, Norfolk departed on a four-game road trip sitting at two games under .500 and coming off consecutive home-ice losses. But the Admirals proceeded to win all four contests away from Scope – two at Manitoba and one apiece in Wilkes-Barre and Syracuse – to rise above the break-even mark at 7-6-0-0 (14 points) for the campaign.

The goaltending tandem of rookie Dustin Tokarski (5-3-0, 2.39, .913) and second-year pro Riku Helenius (2-1-0, 1.35, .938) has helped Norfolk climb to a share of fifth place in the AHL in goals against per game (2.15), a mark further enhanced by the Admirals’ league-low average of 25.62 shots allowed per outing. Tokarski and Helenius have combined to surrender just four goals during the team’s four-game winning streak, which matches the Admirals’ longest since a six-game run from Jan. 21 to Feb. 7, 2007.

ETC. … Rochester enters the week on a 10-game winning streak, one shy of the 54-year-old franchise’s club record; if the Amerks tie the mark with a win over Hamilton on Tuesday, they will go for the record on Thursday at the HSBC Arena in Buffalo when they take on the Portland Pirates… Grand Rapids, which is riding a seven-game winning streak, has trailed at some point during six of its eight victories overall this season… Griffins center Cory Emmerton had registered three points (0-3-3) in nine games on the campaign prior to racking up four goals and an assist in two contests last weekend… Springfield goaltender Devan Dubnyk, who leads the AHL in minutes (775) and saves (448), has recorded at least 30 saves in each of his last eight appearances… Peoria’s 4-3 shootout win at Milwaukee on Friday was its first triumph at the Bradley Center since Mar. 16, 2007, snapping a nine-game skid (0-9-0-0)… Portland’s Jean-Philippe Lamoureux posted his first career AHL shutout with a 28-save effort in a 5-0 win over Hershey on Friday… Rockford’s Nathan Davis already has six goals in 15 games this season after totaling five goals in 49 AHL games as a rookie in 2008-09… Norfolk’s 6-1 win in Syracuse on Saturday was the Admirals’ first victory over the Crunch since Jan. 15, 2003… Hamilton’s season-opening 11-game points streak (7-0-1-3) ended with a 2-1 loss to Binghamton at the Bell Centre in Montreal on Friday… Lake Erie’s 5-for-6 showing on the power play in Sunday’s 8-6 loss to Grand Rapids lifted the Monsters’ season conversion rate from 13.6 percent to 19.4 percent (14-for-72), good for eighth-best in the league… Adirondack is 0-4-1-0 on Saturdays this season and 6-1-0-0 on all other days of the week… Entering the week, AHL teams were a combined 140-4-9-4 this season when leading after two periods, including 85-0-6-1 at home.